Skills Based Volunteer Project – Uganda
Big Beyond’s skills-based volunteer program is an exclusive opportunity to put your talents to use and make an impact. We match your skills and the needs of our communities and conservation initiatives to create sustainable change. Each and every volunteer joining our team is thoughtfully considered to ensure a one-of-a-kind role that is tailored to your individual skills, interests, personality and experience, as well as project requirements at that particular time.
Please contact us to start looking at how you can put your abilities to use in Uganda.
- The opportunity to fully immerse yourself in a beautiful community on the border of the Bwindi Impenetrable National Forest within the Great Rift Valley by working right at grassroots level.
- This is an authentic and inspiring once-in-a-lifetime experience that actively contributes to the the conservation of endangered mountain gorillas.
- A chance to support established projects and inspire new initiatives.
- Where Bwindi, Uganda
- When All year
- Price From £1069
- Who is it best for Any open-minded individual with enthusiasm, flexibility, a passion to support our cause, as well as anyone up for a challenge through a well-organized volunteer venture in rural Africa.
Green, lush, mountainous and remote, it’s not dry dusty Africa some may know and you’ll be travelling away from the masses, to a very friendly community we know you’ll enjoy living in. We’re nestled in a beautiful small village right on the southern borders of one of Africa’s most impressive national parks, surrounded by rolling hills, majestic lakes, tropical rainforest, extinct volcanoes – it’s an awesome landscape with immense biodiversity.
Projects are based in and around the “town” (or big village) which will sometimes involve walking to reach the people you’re working with, particularly if it’s the Batwa tribe who live right on the edges of the forest where there’s no road. It’s a place where you’ll keep fit (if you like that sort of thing), but for those that don’t, nothing is very far away. In your free time the hiking is brilliant, the wildlife surreal, you’re surrounded by nature and you get to live and work with fun, inspiring local people. This unique opportunity offers you authentic immersion in rural Africa where you’ll feel totally safe, relaxed and inspired every day.
The local people are fantastic and will welcome you with wide open arms. You’ll make friends for life. Many locals speak a good level of English, but the main local language is Rukiga. There’s a mixing pot of tribes and cultures in this area. The Batwa tribe are the indigenous forest peoples and are absolutely fascinating to meet. Their culture and intimate knowledge of the forest will completely blow you away. The Bakiga make up the majority of the population and they have immense charm and a great sense of humor.
You can visit Uganda at any time of year and we run projects all year round. This is virgin rainforest and with its tropical climate it can be quite wet, but the temperature is lovely, usually cool in the night (jumpers will do) and warm in the day. The hottest months are December-February and June-September, whereas the rainy season comes twice a year in March-May and September-November. The sun still shines in the rainy season and the rain may come in the dry season too – which is why it’s so beautiful, green and fertile. Being almost bang on the equator and up in the mountains, Big Beyond Uganda volunteers will definitely need to pack lots of sunscreen! But be prepared for some cooler days too.
Your accommodation and all your meals are included in the Big Beyond volunteer fee – so you won’t need to worry about organizing anything. In this rural location, it’s difficult to offer you 5-star luxury accommodation, but we certainly want to make your trip as comfortable as possible and give you a nice home to live in whilst you generously invest your time to help developing parts of the world. When you volunteer with Big Beyond in Uganda, you’ll be living in a comfy house, in a little village, shared with our other volunteers. The views from the garden over Bwindi Forest are absolutely stunning. Some will have their own room and others will have to share depending on availability and preference, but we’ll spread you out as much as possible.
As we’re located in rural and remote Uganda, it will probably offer relatively basic facilities to what you may be used to back home, but we’ve kitted the houses out with comfy bedding, solar power and relaxing places for you to chill out after a hard day’s work helping the local communities. We also provide hot showers and a toasty fire for any chilly nights. We harvest our water from the rain and we’re pretty eco!
Living with other Big Beyond volunteers means you can meet really good mates, share stories and ideas, and have a piece of familiarity to hand whilst you’re away from home. Big Beyond will also look after your belly! You’ll be fully catered for with three decent meals a day, drinking water, tea, fresh hand-roasted coffee, fruit and a pack-lunch if you’re out and about in the community. The hospitality team are a great bunch and love looking after you 24 hours a day. They even do your laundry for you twice a week, now that’s luxury!
We are constantly developing sustainable solutions for a healthier community. Our health projects focus on both children and adults deep in the villages bordering the national park. This is a community exceptionally grateful for little insights into achieving much healthier lives and our projects revolve around health education and knowledge sharing. Health is a critical foundation for development in Africa, but also for conservation – the gorillas, for example, are incredibly susceptible to human disease. Big Beyond does not give out medicine or physically treat patients, so only those interested in prevention accomplishments or improved community health services should join this program.
You could be…
- involved in teaching the basics of relevant disease prevention, nutrition, water, hygiene and sanitation, birth control, first aid or perhaps oral health to individuals or small groups. Health topics evolve as we listen to community needs.
- helping to run awareness events to communicate health messages among the public.
- involved in the Healthiest Schools Program or engaging youth Health Clubs.
- part of developing and implementing affordable and innovative tools such as domestic hand-washing stations, including Tippy Taps.
- spending some time improving the local clinic and their services if your background fits.
- helping with our research to build a deeper understanding around health issues in the community or the role of traditional medicine.
We are very passionate about inspiring local people to take simple steps that prevent illness to reduce mortality rates and medical bills, and promote healthier happier lives.
You are not expected to be a qualified doctor to be an important part of this program. If you are, that is fantastic and your experience will be reflected, but we invite individuals with compassion, some knowledge of health topics and an open mind to help make the range of health projects a great success. You will share invaluable information and tips with people enormously appreciative of your time, and you are very likely to learn a lot yourself too.
This remote community, which until relatively recently was even more cut off from the urban world, is predominantly based on a subsistence economy. Small-scale agriculture is at the core of daily life. However, not only are local people increasingly eager to generate household incomes to improve the quality of family life and formally educate their children, but the fragmented land typical of this region of Uganda is insufficient to support growing populations. Business, strategy, finance and marketing are all areas we need help in to teach local people about improved planning and business basics to set the foundations for sustainable enterprises in the community.
You could be…
- joining the Big Beyond Mobile Business Clinic and inspiring innovation, offering advice, delivering workshops.
- mentoring as we reach deep into the villages to drive local economic development.
- supporting individuals or small groups in strengthening and growing their own businesses.
- helping to design or develop business plans for various enterprise ideas.
- teaching youth or adult groups the basics of business and facilitating engaging challenges.
- researching the enterprise landscape and helping to evaluate economic development progress.
- identifying new opportunities for accessible and competitive products or services suitable for community members.
This is a resource-constrained environment so our volunteers must be willing to transfer their skills and knowledge to a very different context and should enjoy discovering simple opportunities from available financial, physical and human resources. It’s a great challenge and pushes you to think outside the box. Through these projects you will be a real part of building the foundations for a self-sufficient and proud Africa.
Education lies at the core of our development and conservation objectives, because knowledge builds individual capacity, understanding and ultimately creates greater choice.
Along the southern borders of Bwindi Forest, the first primary school was established in the community only in 1980 and a high school in 1982 – now there are many more. Despite this, not everyone living in this community has had the privilege of attending school or access to other forms of vocational education (the elders and also many youth today have not formally learnt).
But values have certainly shifted more recently and it is common for parents (or siblings) to prioritize raising money to pay for school fees. Big Beyond supports a number of schools in rural villages bordering the national park – including nursery, primary and secondary schools. Our role in schools is to help teachers design and deliver a more engaging and productive environment for their students as well as supporting extracurricular activities. We also work on a number of educational initiatives with adults and children outside the school environment, enabling academic, vocational or social learning opportunities to be open to a wider proportion of the community.
There are various vibrant roles for our teaching volunteers to fill, depending on their specific knowledge, if they are a qualified teacher, whether their strength is educating children or adults and if they have a preference towards large or small groups for example.
You could be…
- teaching or mentoring English, IT, Maths, Business, Science, Art, Sports or other relevant subjects, both inside and outside of schools, to individuals, small groups or big classes.
- training local teachers in new methodologies to help improve the engagement and productivity of children in formal schools and raise teacher satisfaction and motivation.
- part of the Storytime initiative, reading with kids in English and engaging them in the stories
- a qualified teacher working closely with local teachers to improve methods in managing big classes and engaging kids more effectively, as well as supporting in lessons.
- helping to run the fun, educational and practical Holiday Club if you’re there during the breaks.
- running workshops on relevant vocational or social topics to a group of women.
Big Beyond does not recruit international volunteers to replace local jobs, but rather focus on strengthening them and improving the quality of community education. If you are willing to be flexible, learn and understand a very different education system, work across a mixture of educational initiatives, bring enthusiasm to your work and are happy to share your time and knowledge, you will be a great asset to the team and the community. You will discover how appreciative your students will be and no doubt learn a lot in return.
Bwindi Impenetrable National Park is an ancient forest in Africa’s Western Rift Valley which is renowned for being home to half the world’s endangered mountain gorilla population. Its survival is particularly important for many reasons. Gorillas live in this small haven surrounded by cultivated land and if the forest disappears, so will they.
Bwindi is a very important and rich ecosystem supporting an enormous diversity of flora and fauna as well as the people that live on its boundaries. Conservation within the national park and concerted efforts in the local communities living on its borders are critical. Big Beyond conservation work predominantly takes place within the communities to raise support for the conservation of the forest, its gorillas and other natural resources. We work with children and adults, aiming to help local people protect their remaining forest through greater understanding. We are also striving to regenerate the natural environment within the communities and work closely with the Uganda Wildlife Authority to achieve various goals inside and outside the national park.
You could be…
- foraging in the mountains of Bwindi forest to collect indigenous tree seedlings and assisting in the nursery for community reforestation initiatives.
- helping to design and develop a botanical garden for use by locals, tourists and scientists.
- collecting flora specimens and contributing to an archive for educational and research purposes, working closely with members of the local Batwa and Bakiga tribes to gather important botanical knowledge and help integrate local insight into conservation objectives.
- educating the local community about conservation through documentary film screenings and debating sessions.
- on a team organising conservation-themed events in the community.
- engaging the community and planting indigenous trees.
- developing the first bird database for the southern sector of the park.
- involved in school wildlife club activities to inspire future generations of conservationists.
- facilitating educational workshops that introduce practical steps towards more environmentally sensitive living.
Conservation projects are dynamic and can include a range of physical and educational tasks. We do not work directly with the gorillas but do a lot of critical work around their survival and the forest they inhabit.
Tourism is an emerging sector for southern Bwindi, beginning when gorilla tourism opened in the early 2000s. Today there are seven habituated gorilla groups in this area, which means more and more tourists are likely to travel to this part of the national park in the coming years. Infrastructure is following but the community still plays a very minor part of the whole business.
If planned and managed well, tourism has the potential to be a very powerful development and conservation tool in Africa, particularly in some remote locations. Our dream is to see a significant proportion of the community genuinely involved, benefiting and leading tourism in their home areas. In this way, local people can benefit from the conservation of Bwindi forest, particularly for economic development and other associated positive impacts. It also means they are more likely to support the protection of Bwindi forest.
Big Beyond is behind the Bwindi Tourism Club, which is steadily building a network of local people able to offer products or services to the sector directly and indirectly. Our goal is to localize the value chain of tourism, put southern Bwindi on the map and ensure tourism creates only positive impacts. This project is really diverse and we need a range of skills and experience to make it a success.
You could be…
- exploring and designing hiking trails and other experiences along the southern borders of the national park.
- training local guides to deliver experiences to international tourists.
- teaching hospitality or other relevant workshops to a budding local workforce ready to work in tourist lodges.
- supporting and teaching online marketing and helping to put southern Bwindi on the map.
- mentoring the club to manage their own finances and operations.
- developing partnerships with tour operators and hotels to help the community become beneficial suppliers.
- working directly with the local farmers to grow various high-quality vegetables for the local hotel industry.
- helping the craft ladies develop and market their range of top-notch souvenirs that stand out.
- mentoring cultural performers to share their stories through dance and drama.
Tourism projects are cross-sector, with some roles “office-based” (well, sort of and it’s the coolest office!) in the Big Beyond Hub located in the bustling small town. Other roles involve being out and about in villages, at lodges or exploring the nearby mountains. You do not need to be a tourism expert as there is a wide range of roles available. You will also learn firsthand how tourism can be incredibly influential in such parts of the world.
CULTURE & ARTS
This little corner of Africa is rich in culture. The history of the indigenous forest peoples – the Batwa tribe or the disfavored term Pygmy, and the Bakiga tribe – is fascinating but mostly unwritten, and while there have been many changes, many traditions still remain today. We are striving to document and understand the cultural heritage of southern Bwindi, as well as the local people’s connection with nature and conservation, through listening and creating discussion in the community. We aim to strengthen cultural values that can be lost in a changing world and raise pride through celebrating the fusion of different cultures in their area.
We want to educate, engage and inspire, and aim to understand what helps the community raise support for the conservation of the forest. The arts can be a powerful way of communicating critical messages (conservation, health, etc), the foundation of local enterprise, creative education and, of course, great entertainment. There is also a lot of talent in the local area that we would love to see burst into action.
You could be…
- interviewing local people to discover deeper insights into the cultural and natural heritage of southern Bwindi.
- applying your creativity to help design impactful educational messages through all forms of the arts.
- mentoring cultural performers to improve their acts and communicate the story of southern Bwindi.
- teaching art students or training teachers in new methods.
- supporting the craft ladies in developing a higher-quality tourist souvenir range that stands out.
- combining the local talents of blacksmith, tailors, weavers, carvers and others to create new products.
- working in schools or villages to figure out what to do with recycled materials in the area.
To become an important part of this program you do not need qualifications, but bags of enthusiasm with a dash of creativity is an advantage. This project offers varied engaging opportunities for people with a passion for drama, music, dance, arts and crafts, history or anthropology to bring their energy to this vibrant community in Uganda and devote their skills and time to a range of brilliant initiatives.
We love events! Big or small, they are one of the best ways to engage the community, radiate positive and useful messages, and to entertain. Big Beyond events are not fueled by enormous budgets – they are creative and resourceful activities that bring people together to achieve great impact in garnering support for our development and conservation objectives.
You could be…
- helping to plan, organize and grow the annual Mountain Gorilla Trail Run that takes place in June/July.
- creatively designing and organizing tree-planting, conservation, health and cultural performance events.
- involved in a mini music and dance festival to engage locals with tourists.
- innovating our Friday Market Health Fairs that educate on relevant disease prevention topics.
- part of a team or the leader of an event.
If you’re good at organizing or like being part of a team, this can be a great project to include in your volunteer program. Events involve a variety of responsibilities and your role would be designed according to your experience, skills and interests. We regularly bring all the volunteers together to help run an event – it’s a great task to add on the side of another core program or you can purely focus on events all the way through.
January 8th, 22nd | February 5th & 19th | March 5th & 19th | April 2nd, 16th &30th | May 14th & 28th | June 11th & 25th | July 9th & 23rd | August 16th & 20th | September 3rd & 17th | October 1st, 15th & 29th | November 12th & 26th | December 10th & 24th December
Project duration: two weeks to six months. Start dates on every other Sunday year-round (arrival on a Saturday after 4pm).
Project participation fees
|2 WEEKS||GBP 1069||14 WEEKS||GBP 3663|
|3 WEEKS||GBP 1278||15 WEEKS||GBP 3856|
|4 WEEKS||GBP 1450||16 WEEKS||GBP 4049|
|5 WEEKS||GBP 1686||17 WEEKS||GBP 4232|
|6 WEEKS||GBP 1966||18 WEEKS||GBP 4404|
|7 WEEKS||GBP 2250||19 WEEKS||GBP 4586|
|8 WEEKS||GBP 2438||20 WEEKS||GBP 4764|
|9 WEEKS||GBP 2642||21 WEEKS||GBP 4930|
|10 WEEKS||GBP 2857||22 WEEKS||GBP 5091|
|11 WEEKS||GBP 3066||23 WEEKS||GBP 5252|
|12 WEEKS||GBP 3276||24 WEEKS||GBP 5317|
|13 WEEKS||GBP 3469|
OUR PRICES INCLUDE:
- A creative and totally unique high-impact volunteer program.
- Your personal email and phone guru to help you prepare.
- Pre-departure destination handbook.
- Airport transfers on arrival and departure.
- Detailed in-country orientation program, including basic language and cultural immersion.
- Local project transport where necessary.
- Decent full-board accommodation in a shared volunteer house.
- Three organic veggie meals a day.
- Bottled drinking water, fresh hand-roasted coffee and tea available all day.
- Fresh local fruit available at all times.
- All housekeeping and laundry done for you.
- Local mobile phone SIM card (including pre-cut SIMs for unlocked Smart phones).
- Free internet (unfortunately slow and unreliable in this part of the world, be warned!).
- Big Beyond team t-shirt.
- Daily project support, guidance and translators when needed.
- 24/7 emergency support from professional in-country teams.
- Travel advice and organisation for any weekends away.
- Program administration.
- Contribution to project costs.
- A life-long membership to the Big Beyond Tribe.
OUR PRICES EXCLUDE:
- Medical and travel insurance
- Weekend trips and other non-project activities
- Alcohol. Please note this is not allowed during day time activities
HOW YOUR PROJECT FEE IS USED:
Big Beyond projects make long-term sustainable impacts within the communities they work. You’re project fee goes towards your direct expenses on project, supporting our longterm staff who ensure our projects are sustainable and towards the running of Big Beyond to ensure the organisation itself is sustainable. By volunteering with Big Beyond you not only make an impact during your time but help us ensure that everything we do make a sustainable and lasting change.
ON YOUR DOORSTEP
There’s an abundance of activities to suit different interests. In your free time, you might enjoy a challenging hike in the surrounding mountains you or a more relaxed stroll through the villages, a trek through the rainforest, a climb up a volcano or two, or just simply marveling at or basking in a beautiful waterfall. Your passion may be to spot incredible and colorful species of birds, or you can take a dip into some of the refreshing lakes – Lake Bunyonyi and Mutanda aren’t far away and a must-visit for a day or two.
Perhaps the history and culture of the Batwa and Bakiga tribes has completely engrossed you and you just want to spend some time with the people, learning about their fascinating way of life. Gorilla tracking is of course a hugely popular activity when travelling to Bwindi, a truly exhilarating and an unforgettable experience. We can help organize permits.
For those that feel an urge to explore a little further afield, it’s just a small journey away (possible on your weekends) to get to the hot African savanna where tree-climbing lions live and buffalo, elephant and antelope wander. Or perhaps you’d prefer to visit the huge snow-capped mountains for a challenging hike and explore forests in search of chimpanzees on the way … Uganda is a country of incredible contrast, diversity and a true blend of Africa.
But you don’t have to travel across every inch of Uganda to experience what this country is all about. Sometimes meeting the different local people, sharing some food and enjoying a cold beer with majestic views as the sun goes down is enough. You can relax by playing sports, discussing life and exchanging stories, or you could just choose to sit and relax in the gardens of your Big Beyond house reading a book in one of the hammocks.
Each and every volunteer joining the Big Beyond team is thoughtfully considered to ensure a one-of-a-kind role that is tailored to individual skills, interests, personality and experience, as well as project requirements at that particular time. Volunteers live together in rural communities where we work hand-in-hand towards long-term critical goals.
This program is flexible, dynamic, rewarding and, whichever style fits you, you could become involved in activities that positively impact community health, enterprise, education, tourism, culture or protected area conservation. This experience is also a truly authentic and inspiring challenge that enriches volunteers personally and professionally and we love to help everyone achieve their personal goals too.